Judge removes himself from I-35W bridge lawsuit

(AP) - A Ramsey County judge cited a conflict of interest and removed himself Tuesday from the lawsuit over the bidding process for the new Interstate 35W bridge.

District Judge Steven Wheeler said his wife, a lawyer at Travelers Cos. Inc., often works with several local contractors who submitted failing bids for the rebuilding contract.

The state eventually gave the contract to a joint venture of Colorado-based Flatiron Constructors and Florida-based Manson Construction.

Later, two taxpayers with experience as construction industry executives sued the state alleging the contract with Flatiron is illegal and harms taxpayers.

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The lawsuit seeks to stop the state Transportation Department from going ahead with the project and voiding the $234 million contract with Flatiron.

Flatiron's bid was the most expensive and tied for the longest build time, but the company beat three other teams on a technical score included rankings for quality and aesthetics.

If the judge were to order that the bidding process be re-opened it would have clear implications for the losing bidders.

The case was reassigned to Judge Edward Cleary.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)